Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson with the NFL MVP award
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As quarterbacks have become more valuable in football, with salaries skyrocketing each year, the NFL MVP trophy has largely become an award for quarterbacks. As we look ahead to the 2020 NFL season, expect that trend to continue this year.

Since 2007, a quarterback has won the NFL MVP award 12 times with running back Adrian Peterson the lone exception in 2012. Coming off consecutive record-setting seasons by MVP recipients Patrick Mahomes in 2018 and Lamar Jackson this past season, we’re anticipating big things in 2020.

A few candidates are flying flying under the radar who could surprise this season. But when it comes down to it, here’s how we rank the top-five NFL MVP candidates for the 2020 season.

5. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The NFL MVP award is about more than just stats. While jaw-dropping numbers will help a quarterback garner attention, that player also needs to uplift an entire team. It’s arguably one of the main reasons Tom Brady came to Tampa Bay. He has the chance to prove he can thrive without Bill Belichick. Given the recent history of this organization, he’ll also get the opportunity to help dramatically change the Buccaneers.

Age certainly isn’t on Brady’s side as he’ll turn before the regular season begins. However, he finds himself surrounded by a supporting cast that can do laps around the players he had in New England. Brady can easily throw 35-plus touchdowns with a skill group that includes All-Pro talents Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. If the Buccaneers can win 12 games and Brady throws for 4,500-plus yards with 35-plus touchdowns, he’ll be in the hunt for his fourth MVP award.

4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

It feels ridiculous that Russell Wilson hasn’t won an NFL MVP award. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, plays behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines and is in a system that limits his talents. Despite it all, he keeps playing at an absurd level as we saw in 2019 with 4,110 passing yards, 34 total touchdowns and a 106.3 quarterback rating.

There’s reason to be excited for Wilson in 2020. The pairing of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf could be the best receiver duo Seattle’s franchise quarterback has ever had. He’ll also enjoy throwing passes to Phillip Dorsett, Greg Olsen and a healthy Will Dissly. We’re going to see Wilson play at an elite level this season, proving he is one of the best players in his generation. The Seahawks will make the playoffs, he’ll post incredible numbers and it still might not be enough.

3. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

There’s no escaping how absurd Lamar Jackson’s stats were during the 2019 season. Even if you only focus on his passing numbers, he led the league in ESPN’s QBR (81.8) and finished first in passing touchdowns (36). If all of that, along with a 36-8 TD-INT ratio, wasn’t impressive enough, Jackson also set the NFL’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206) in 15 games.

Jackson deserved to be the unanimous NFL MVP and we believe he’ll be an even better passer this season. He will face a steeper challenge in 2020 following Marshal Yanda’s retirement and NFL defenses adjusting to Baltimore’s offense. We also expect that voters will try and avoid voting for the same player in consecutive years. If anyone can pull a Peyton Manning, who repeated as the MVP in 2008 and ’09, we’re betting on Jackson.

2. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

There’s a reason why it’s crucial for the Cowboys to sign Dak Prescott to an extension this summer. The star quarterback’s asking price is only at $35 million annually on a four-year deal, a mark that could look like a bargain a few years from now. After bringing in Mike McCarthy and drafting CeeDee Lamb, Dallas has put Prescott in a position to potentially win the NFL MVP and even take this team to the Super Bowl.

Prescott’s stats this past season were beyond impressive. A 99.7 quarterback rating with nearly 5,000 passing yards and 33 total touchdowns. He did all of that with Jason Garrett at head coach and Kellen Moore in his first year as offensive coordinator. Dallas’s offense will be better this season and this team should glide to an NFC East crown. A division title with 40 total touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards might be all Prescott needs to win MVP. The Cowboys will long for the days when he wanted less than $40 million per year if that happens.

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Even amid concerns that the NFL’s 2021 salary cap could take a big hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chiefs are still ready to give Mahomes a record-setting contract. He won’t turn 25 until the middle of September, but Mahomes already has an NFL MVP award and a Super Bowl MVP. By the time the 2020 season ends, we expect him to add even more trophies.

Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards with 52 total touchdowns and a 113.8 quarterback rating in his first season as a starting quarterback. He won his first MVP award that year and he did it all while playing at a disadvantage. Kansas City’s offense has even more talent than it had the past two seasons and Mahomes is a better quarterback. Put those two things together and it’s clear why he could have a record-breaking season.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick